The VHS Twilight Zone

by Barrett

This is not the fifth dimension.  But be forewarned… This represents the final moments of a cautionary tech tale.

This is not the fifth dimension. But be forewarned… This represents the final moments of a cautionary tech tale.

Imagine recording all of your favorite TV shows on your trusty VCR for over a decade. Some of the episodes you’d actually watch as a time-shifting technique. Others, you’d never get to, because life is too busy.

And then you’d hold onto these bulky VHS tapes, believing some long evaporated rationale that you like ‘owning’ some of those episodes and would eventually get to the unwatched ones.

Yes, you’ve just entered the VHS Twilight Zone.

It’s Not a Bad Dream
Consider this evolving dimension:
Along the way to growing your media library you’d also get into the VHS movie-buying game. Here and there, you’d buy a few flicks you really enjoyed in the theater, because you were certain you would watch these movies over and over again.
(And by a few, I mean a couple dozen.)

And then you’d proudly position all of these tapes on your crowded bookshelves like they were part of some sort of family heirloom collection.

Eventually, the march of time and new DVD technology would force your VHS tapes to retreat into boxes that lived in the back of your closet or deep into your basement.

You’d consider throwing them all away, but still hold onto the entirely unreasonable belief that you would still find the time to consume the hundreds of unwatched hours. And you’d ignore the reality that your shows are now long cancelled and forgotten in pop culture zeitgeist.

Instead, you got married and had a family.

The Great Conversion Project that Failed
And when DVD recorders are invented, you’d have the misguided notion that you could transfer your favorite shows over to DVDs to save your media collection from oblivion.

But before you could make a serious dent in your conversion project, DVD recorders will encounter a premature extinction.

And those hideous rectangular black blocks would still remain….

HDTV and VCRs Can’t Live Together
When you’d buy your first HDTV, you would hook up your old VCR but never use it. The analog machine would just sit there… sucking power in its ‘phantom off mode.’

And then it would finally hit you:
Why would you even want to watch anything on VHS anymore? It’s mediocre resolution and old-school 4:3 aspect ratio is an insult to the eyes.

The haze would lift, but family life would distract you from taking action against the evil tapes. The boxes would then conveniently slip into the fifth dimension… into the middle ground between light and shadow.
(Dissolve to an image of a spinning clock…)

The VHS Tapes that Time Forgot
If you haven’t already guessed, yes, I’m liberally stealing language from
“The Twilight Zone,” and yes, this is my story.

So the other day, I ran across these forgotten boxes of ancient VHS tapes in the back of my basement.
(I felt a bit like Rip Van Winkle.)

It must have been over a hundred tapes!
Okay… two hundred.
(I’m not proud.)

And guess what?
I searched my soul, looking for that inscrutable pull that forced me to tether these boxes to almost half of my life.
It was gone.
(I guess there is an expiration date on irrational tech hoarding.)

And then I sneezed.
(The boxes were dusty.)

It was finally time!
Time to purge these VHS tapes from my life.
(Even if I still wanted to save the content on any of these tapes, some over twenty years old, the magnetic coating on the tapes had probably entirely deteriorated.)

And now I’m happy to report my home is VHS free.

VHS is Not Cool
I know some of you are probably thinking, “What’s a VHS tape?”

The real irony here is there are other folks still using this dead technology.
(You can actually still buy a VCR and VHS tapes on Amazon.)

Look, I know I’ve suffered from some sort of undocumented VHS-hoarding syndrome. But why would someone choose to actively use VHS technology today?
(Let it go…!)

Avoid Your Own Tech Twilight Zone
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to retain your video content over the course of your life. You’ve just got to keep future-proofing it. And you can’t put this ongoing project off.

Technology is moving at such a fast clip, all your media… especially your family videos… is at risk.

DVDs used to be my media archiving solution. Now, they’re probably becoming drink coasters. And so it’s another race against time to transfer all of that content to my external hard drives. (Which won’t last forever either)

Maybe the whole notion of owning any media content in physical form over any extended length of time is indeed a flawed one. The whole cloud-based storage solution is finally making a lot more sense… something more than the media conglomerates exercising total control over their own content.

But the cloud is going to cost you a pretty penny as a decades-long solution.
(Still…. remember that people used to spend ten bucks on a single blank VHS tape.)

That’s the Signpost Up Ahead…
There’s always going to be a price to maintaining your video collection.
It would hurt to stress test your need to hold onto so much content.
Because at the end of the day, you can’t.

A cautionary tale in the Tech Twilight Zone…